Fire ant

Alert

Have you seen Fire ant?

Be on the lookout for Fire ant and report them to Biosecurity Queensland. Early detection and reporting are the key elements in eradicating Fire ant.

Call us on 13 25 23.

Native to South America, fire ants are small, coppery brown ants that can inflict painful stings on humans and animals. They can also have major impacts on our environment and agriculture.

Unless controlled, fire ants could spread to large areas of Australia, and could severely damage the local environment, Australia's outdoor lifestyle, and agricultural and tourism industries.

Fire ants are a category 1 restricted pest under the Biosecurity Act 2014. Report them online or call Biosecurity Queensland on 13 25 23.

Watch the fire ant identification video to find out what they look like and where you might find them on your property.

Scientific name

Solenopsis invicta

Description

  • Small ant 2-6mm long (each nest contains ants of various sizes).
  • Head and body are coppery brown, abdomen darker.

Habitat

  • Mounds can be up to 40cm high, but may also be flat and look like small patches of disturbed soil.
  • Mound has no obvious entry or exit holes on top.
  • Usually found in open areas such as lawns, pastures, along roadsides and in unused cropland.
  • Can be found next to or under other objects (e.g. timber, logs, rocks, pavers or bricks).

Distribution in Queensland

  • Fire ants have been found in:
    • Brisbane, Logan, Ipswich, Redland and Scenic Rim areas, with isolated infestations in Lockyer Valley and northern Gold Coast
    • Yarwun, Gladstone.
  • View current fire ant biosecurity zones.

Life cycle

  • After mating flight, new queens establish colonies and lay 10-20 eggs within 24 hours.
  • Eggs hatch within 6-10 days and queen lays more eggs.
  • After 1 month, worker ants have opened colony and are tending queen, who lays more eggs.
  • After 6-12 months, colony is producing male and female alates (sexually mature ants).
  • Newly mated female alates leave nest to establish more colonies.

Crops affected

  • More than 50 agricultural and horticultural crops, as well as turf and nursery species, are affected by fire ants. All are grown in Australia, in areas that fire ants could inhabit.
  • Infestations in USA have caused 35% reduction in potato yield in Florida, and  65% reduction in corn yield in Mississippi.

Affected animals

livestock; native animals; pets

Impacts

Environmental

  • Potential to inhabit most of Australia’s major coastal areas and extensive areas of tropical north.
  • Feed voraciously on small ground fauna, including insects, spiders, lizards, frogs, birds and mammals. Could displace or eliminate some native species.
  • Eat and damage seeds, possibly causing major ecosystem changes over time.

Economic

  • Fire ant mounds can be serious problem in lawns, sporting fields and golf courses.
  • Damage sensitive electrical equipment.
  • Affect tourism industry and export of items to fire-ant-free countries.
  • Significantly affect agriculture industry. Attack young animals, stinging around eyes, mouth and nose, leading to blindness and suffocation.
  • Prevent animals from reaching food or water without being seriously stung, leading to starvation and dehydration.
  • Can damage and kill some plants by tunnelling through roots and stems.
  • Protect some pest insect species that produce 'honeydew', downgrading quality of produce and helping to spread disease.
  • Feed on important biological control agents, interfering with integrated pest management practices.
  • Mounds can destroy equipment, such as irrigation systems, and damage machinery during harvesting operations.

Social

  • Restrict everyday activities such as picnics and sporting activities as backyards backyards, parks, school playgrounds and sports grounds are unusable.

Health

  • Fire ants usually move quickly, allowing large numbers to move onto humans before they are detected.
  • Stings from fire ants can cause a painful, burning, itching sensation, lasting up to 1 hour.
  • Multiple stings give sensation that body is on fire.
  • Small pustules may form at sting sites several hours after stinging and may become itchy.
  • Broken pustules may become infected.

Control

Legal requirements

  • Fire ants are a category 1 restricted pest under the Biosecurity Act 2014.
  • Fire ant biosecurity zones are in place in areas of Queensland to restrict the movement of materials that could spread fire ants.
  • Under the Biosecurity Act 2014, individuals and organisations whose activities involve the movement or storage of fire ant carriers will have a general biosecurity obligation (GBO) to take all reasonable steps to ensure they do not spread fire ants.
  • The Biosecurity Regulation 2016 prescribes procedures that you must follow when moving or storing a fire ant carrier.

More information